What I’ve seen recently in the last week or two in no particular order:
- Minions – Mediocre/OK in that lower tier of Dreamworks Animation with Penguins of Madagascar. This viral Grantland review liked it a lot more than I did if you want a positive and hilarious view.
- Trainwreck – Judd Apatow doing his thing. It wasn’t exactly for me but it does have a fine comedic performance by Lebron James. Fair warning though, there is super naked John Cena. He’s super super naked. The film spurred this piece over at BMD about how ‘coming of age’ films seem to encompass teens to 39 year olds and that reveals a bit about how biology is in some ways a subversive conservative force. The “I can’t do what I used to” argument for settling down is as good as any outside of piety.
- Amy – I didn’t know who Amy Winehouse was in any way before seeing this film. This was a sad documentary about a destroyed life and the harsh glare of the public eye that made me realize just how young and developing as people celebrities are, especially in the pop music context.
- Infinitely Polar Bear – I saw this with Amy as a double at the Oriental and this one is a bit cheerier than I expected but still was kind of rending in its own way. There’s a great scene that opens the film where Ruffalo’s character is having a full on break down. It’s not necessarily violent but the fear on his family’s face as they huddle in the car is still the most vivid memory I have of the film. This moment hangs over the proceedings, we know how bad it can get for this guy. Anyway, Ruffalo kills it. There’s not necessarily a grand dramatic arc or that much growth so much as a picture of a slice of life under a particular struggle and pressure.
- Southpaw – Fuqua doing Fuqua elevated by another great Gyllenhaal performance. For some reason I mentally group Fuqua in with David Ayers because of his masculinist through lines but he’s never quite as artful or cutting. Both never exactly have hit for me because whatever message there is tends to be garbled or more committed to certain textual pieces or exceedingly simple dad-action morality stuff like the fun home alone for ex military sad grandpas The Equalizer. Anyway, it’s a boxing movie if you wanted one of those.
- Papertowns – The latest John Green joint never quite hits the highs and lows of his cancer kid movie The Fault in Our Stars. I’ve already written about two coming of age films and this one is not as… as anything really as those two. For all the white knuckle uncertainty I have had over understanding Greg’s socio-racially entitled film nerd viewpoint a little too well, Papertowns has an empty assumed moneyed privilege that might be worse than Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. That’s sort of my own baggage though. The fact that it is invisible, taken for granted is sort of its own thing. The houses are just so big and nice and none of these kids have jobs and parties here are so far removed from my lived experience, mix that general resentment with the fact that I don’t even understand how they can afford gas or that their parents are this background noise financial buffer just in case anything goes wrong. Ugh. It was cute and fun enough though.
- Mr. Holmes – Ian McKellen has a good take on old Holmes. His convincing memory loss and growing warmth toward his housekeeper’s son ground the film. I don’t really know how to compare this one to other films, especially other recent Holmes material. If you’re down to watch a personal stakes drama about a man who needs to find a peace of mind by solving one last mystery about his past and himself this is a good, if incredibly specific, film to choose.
- Testament of Youth – I’m a sucker for period dramas and romance. This film combines the two in a tragic true story of a famous pacifist. This pacifist part of her story is only briefly mentioned at the end of the film so do not worry too much about the politics angle here. The human toll of the first world war in the film, though deeply depressing by the end, is never cheaply rendered but rather earned and felt. It drags a bit but the exhaustion I felt in my chair was a mirror in a small way of what is felt by the main character.
Other films I’ve liked so far this year:
- Marvel’s Ant Man and Avengers 2 for fun
- Inside Out for emotional family stuff
- Far From the Madding Crowd for romance
- What We Do In The Shadows for comedy
- The Connection for crime drama
Getting caught up on: UnREAL season 1, Hannibal season 3, True Detective season 2
In the queue: Silicon Valley season 2, Veep season 4
Revisiting: VGHS Season 1 and 2 (Netflix has both episode and movie cuts of S1)
In the queue: The Babadook, Faults